The first thing that must change in order for a church to grow is h ow the pastor manages time.
Do you like sushi?
If so, the next time you visit your local sushi bar order up a plate of finely pulverized white fish mixed with flavoring, salt, egg, flour and binders draped in red food dye
Sounds appetizing, right?
This is why some of the solutions served up to stagnant and declining churches are so wrong.
Let me explain.
At first, it was hard to pinpoint. The only clue was an occasional sense something wasn’t right.
In time it was followed by a dull ache that cropped up on occasion.
The frequency increased, but the discomfort never lasted long.
Finally, I mentioned it during my semi-annual dental check-up. She asked, “Have you been experiencing any discomfort or have you noticed any changes in your teeth?”
I told her.
She took a quick look, then grabbed a quick video with a camera the size of a ballpoint pen.
There was trouble at #17.
She showed me the video feed, and there it was. A 40 year old filling that needed to be replaced, surrounded by numerous tiny cracks and fissures. I was headed for some real pain if I didn’t have this fixed – soon!
The treatment taught me a few things about interim pastors and turnaround churches. You’ve got to remove old fillings, grind away the fissures and create a stable platform for the crown. (more…)
I am continually amazed at the fact that many (if not most) American churches emulate the ancient pagan religions in one regard: we neglect mission.
The only way the minuscule percentage of churches that see people come to faith makes sense is if outreach, mission and evangelism are rarities in those churches.
In this regard many American churches resemble ancient pagan religions.
Proselytism rare in paganism
They’re not going to like your answer, no matter what you say, even though they desperately need your help.
“Will our church grow if we call you as our interim pastor?” This is a tough question.
It is tough because it shows they have absolutely no idea of the right way to hire an interim pastor.
It is a tough because (1) you have no idea whether they will or won’t grow; because (2) they more than likely won’t grow significantly during the interim period; because (3) it rests on some presuppositions that you’ll be challenging during the interim period and because (4) you might miss out on a job if you tell them straight.
Giving them the straight answer is the beginning of a relationship built on trust.
So, what’s the correct answer?
Is it time for you – the Interim Pastor – to give your client church the “Gatorade treatment”?
Not the victory celebration.
I’m talking about a cold dose of reality, that may be the only thing that will wake a slumbering congregation.
The “problem” beneath symptoms and causes
Let me suggest that the real problem that lies at the heart of our client churches’ woes is that they’ve forgotten who they are and why they’re here.
Church members experience a church’s ailment as symptoms – conflict, confusion, declining income and attendance, lack of volunteers, and doubts and discouragement over the future.
Interim pastors categorize a church’s trouble by etiology – undisciplined sin, unresolved conflict, untrained leaders, lack of vision, neglected facilities and the like.
But I think there’s really only one problem that lies at the heart of the diagnostic causes and the unpleasant symptoms: for whatever reason the people (as individuals) and the congregation (as a body) have decoupled from God’s mission in the world.
If this problem isn’t solved – if the congregation’s attention isn’t turned toward God’s mission – it’s probable that the church will remain plateaued even under the ministry of the next pastor.
The Interim Pastor’s Challenge
Note: I developed this book review from one of the Kindle hacks that I demonstrated in another post on this weblog. Ron Crandall's Turnaround and Beyond: A Hopeful Future for…
What are you going to do to plug the hole that’s quickly sinking this church?
You’re the Interim Pastor and you’ve got the dreadful feeling that this client church retained you to bail water and not repair the leak. Isn’t that what Interim Pastors do, pick up the bucket the departing pastor dropped?
The assessment confirms your first intuition: these folks are so focused on themselves that they have no concern about the Great Commission and no compassion for the souls in the neighborhood.
You’re an experienced Interim Minister. You’ve seen this before, but not to this degree. So what do you turn to? What have you got in your toolkit that will help you develop a strategy to solve the real problem?
Let me suggest a tool you may want to add to your collection. (Any excuse for buying another book is a good one, right?)
The book, The Externally Focused Church [affiliate link] by Rick Rucksaw and Eric Swanson should be one of the first tools you reach for. This engaging book is a delight to read (you’ll find plenty of sermon illustrations to stick in your sermon file under “stuff I stole from other thieves”) The “case study” stories are helpful and there are excellent resources in the Appendices.
They set the book’s agenda right up front. In the introduction they write,
[E]very statistic tells us that the church in America today is becoming more and more marginalized and less and less influentialâ€¦. One of the most effective ways to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ today is through real and relevant acts of service. Honest, compassionate service can restore credibility to the crucial message we have to share. To tell the truth we must show the truth. (page 11)
The Appendix on “Scriptures Concerning Good Works and Good Deeds” is a helpful resource for preaching texts. If you start with those texts and borrow some of the chapter illustrations – giving credit where credit is due – you’ll have a good start on the preaching calendar.
An Important Definition
You’re an interim pastor who’s just gotten the worst career news possible.
What do you do after you learn that most of what you’ve been told about church growth isn’t true?
How would your ministry as an interim pastor be compromised?
It turns out that church growth consultants might just be like economists: if you lay them end-to-end you’ll discover that they still don’t reach any firm conclusions.
Well, the situation isn’t quite that bad. The rich body of church growth literature has blessed many a church and has provided great tools for interim pastors.
But a recent article by Dr. Gary McIntosh, Top Factors in Growing Churches, justifies a cautious if not mildly skeptical attitude toward the church growth knowledgebase.
There is very little consensus
It turns out that there is scant agreement on the factors that growing churches share in common, at least according to those who write the books. McIntosh writes, (more…)
When I first entered vocational ministry as an intentional interim pastor I took every request to meet with a potential client church that came my way. I didn’t require a reimbursement for time or mileage nor did I insist on meeting with the decision makers. I’d meet with anyone, anytime at any place.
Now that I can rightly claim to be an experienced interim pastor and a skilled practitioner of the “healing arts” I generally pre-qualify a church before I will take the meeting.
Bear in mind that I work primarily with autonomous churches that may or may not be part of a denomination. If you work with churches that are governed in some degree by a denominational office you will need to modify this procedure accordingly.